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Kari Hultman (a.k.a. The Village Carpenter) has been passionate about woodworking as a hobby since 1992 and, although she has a blended shop, prefers to work with handtools.  Making handplanes and building Pennsylvania German and 18th- and 19th-century country furniture are among her favorite interests, but an admiration for all aspects of woodworking including carving, inlay, and turning, entices her to take as many classes as her checking account allows. Visit her excellent blog for tutorials on handwork, ice-cream flavors for woodworkers (really!) and more.

Most of my woodworking books reflect my particular interest in workbenches, traditional woodworking and the construction and use of handtools. And because I’m a visual person and a lot of my time is spent dreaming about the things I’d like to make, I prefer books with lots of photos and illustrations.

It was very difficult to whittle my list down to 10, so I just chose the ones with the most dog-eared pages. These are among the books that accompany me on every vacation, especially trips that do not include some aspect of woodworking (in which case, even more books are packed).

In no particular order:
“Making & Mastering Wood Planes,” by David Finck. Not only a recipe book for making planes, it covers techniques, jigs, sharpening, tuning your band saw and several hand tools, and more.

“Choosing & Using Handtools,” by Andy Rae. Which tools do you need and how do you use and care for them? This book answers those questions. Excellent photos and illustrations.

“Tools Rare and Ingenious,” by Sandor Nagyszalanczy. Books that make you go “ahh”-this is it. If you like breathtakingly stunning handmade tools, many of them antique, this book is for you.

“Classic Hand Tools,” by Garrett Hack. In some ways similar to Andy Rae’s, this book explains how to choose and use the right tools for the job, how to tune them, and how they have a place in any woodworking shop. Again, beautiful photos and illustrations.

“The Art of Fine Tools,” by Sandor Nagyszalanczy. I never get tired of reading about the history of handtools and looking at images of exquisitely crafted, one-of-a kind tools. And if you’re interested in making tools with artistic appeal, this book is great inspiration.

“The Toolbox Book,” by Jim Tolpin. Who among us doesn’t appreciate tool storage? Jim includes sections on layout, design considerations, several exploded drawings, and a multitude of photos of tool boxes, chests, and cabinets , some of which resemble fine furniture.

“Workbenches, From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” by Chris Schwarz. If you are thinking about building a workbench, start here. Chris considers every aspect of designing the perfect bench for you-from wood choice, to bench vises, dogs, and jigs, to handtool techniques. Also included are procedures and measured drawings to build two styles of benches: The Nicholson and Le Roubo.

“The Workbench,” by Lon Schleining. Workbenches galore, and some of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. This book discusses many different styles (including shaving horses), structural considerations, bench jigs, and several exploded drawings, including Klausz, Dunbar, Frid, and Maloof benches.

“Country Furniture,” by Aldren A. Watson. No photos, but lots of hand-sketched illustrations. Aldren discusses old world techniques that were used to build furniture out of necessity. Country craftsmen were resourceful and clever and this book explains the tools and joinery methods they employed, from chopping mortises to carving a ball and claw foot, to building a window sash. An excellent book.

“The Village Carpenter,” by Walter Rose. Rose writes about carpentry and working in his grandfather’s shop in Victorian England, at a time when the carpenter was vital to the life of the village and whose duties encompassed a much broader range of skills and projects than what we think of as carpentry today. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Cheater alert….
I’m adding all of Roy Underhill’s books. St. Roy: …?nuff said.

– Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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  • Home Accents

    Besides the ranking of the books, I’d like to say all of them reflect the interest of Kari for new methods and systems to improve the work he does. That is very commendable! Keep it up.

  • Vince

    This is an awesome top ten list, you can post any top ten list to our site and then link back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

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